Former Speaker of the House died today at age 84
President Barack Obama
“Today, America has lost a legend of the United States Congress,” President Barack Obama said in a prepared statement. “For 30 years, Tom Foley represented the people of Washington’s 5th district with skill, dedication, and a deep commitment to improving the lives of those he was elected to serve. Tom’s straightforward approach helped him find common ground with members of both parties, eventually leading to his election as the 57th Speaker of the House. After his career in Congress, Tom served as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, where his poise and civility helped strengthen our relationship with one of our closest allies. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Tom’s wife, Heather, and the entire Foley family.”
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Foley welcomed her to “the other Washington” when she was first elected to the Senate in 1992 and he was House speaker.
“Tom spent his life serving his state and his country, and his legacy is felt not only in Eastern Washington, but around the world. From his work to build new roads, protect public lands, and bring federal resources to Spokane, to his career as a statesman overseas, Tom touched the lives of everyone he encountered, whether it was a wheat farmer in Washington or a foreign dignitary in Japan.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
Gov. Jay Inslee, who was a freshman in the House representing central Washington during Foley’s last term as speaker, said a passion to serve was at the heart of all his roles, from deputy prosecutor to ambassador to Japan.
“He was a giant at a time when bipartisan cooperation for the good of the country was the norm, not the exception. He dedicated his life to making his community, his state, and his country a better place. He did it by reaching across the aisle, by bringing people together, by finding common ground.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who was a House freshman during Foley’s last term, said the country lost “a great leader and a wonderful human being.
“Tom Foley typified what is best about political leadership, leading no matter what the consequences. He had an unbelievable ability to communicate and fight for the people he represented. He became one of the most powerful politicians in the country but he never forgot where he came from.”
Former Pres. George H.W. Bush
Former President George H.W. Bush, who traveled to Spokane in 1989 for a demonstration of bipartisanship, wrote in a letter to Foley in July,
“When I think of Tom Foley, I think about an outstanding public servant. I think about love of country and service to others… as speaker, you were fair and worked well with both sides of the aisle.”
Former Pres. Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton, whose first two years in the White House were Foley’s last two as speaker, wrote in a letter last July that he was “as knowledgeable a lawmaker as has ever served.”
“You always delivered for those who counted on you, and not once in 30 years did your personal ambition outweigh the concerns of your constituents or stand in the way of smart policy.”
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers
“He proudly served with distinction for 30 years and will be remembered as one of our state’s giants,” said U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Spokane Republican currently serving in the 5th Congressional District seat he’dd held. “Eastern Washington agriculture and wheat farmers still benefit today from his leadership as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and House Speaker … he remains a model for leaders today.”
Former Gov. Gary Locke
Former Gov. Gary Locke, the ambassador to China, said Foley became a friend and mentor whom he leaned on frequently for advice, as governor and later as commerce secretary.
“Few people who have ever served in Congress have had the unequaled influence and record of accomplishment that Tom provided the people of Eastern Washington, and our nation, for three decades. Tom Foley was a gentle giant, a true patriot and a devoted servant of the people.”
Former Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash.
Former Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., a longtime friend and ally in the House, said Foley rose steadily in leadership because he was so respected by all of the Democratic Caucus and when people heard him speak, he won them over.
“He was a bipartisan leader. What we’ve just gone through in this country (the partial government shutdown and questions about the debt ceiling), he never would have allowed that to happen.”
Senior U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush
Senior U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush, a lifelong friend who managed Foley’s first campaign in 1964 and all subsequent campaigns until he was appointed to the bench in 1979, said Spokane will probably remember Foley for representation on things like Expo ’74, but the nation as a whole will remember his willingness to take tough stands.
“He was the most personally and intellectually honest person I ever met, always deciding issues on the merits, or lack thereof, regardless of the political consequences.”
Spokane Mayor David Condon
“Spokane lost a great leader and champion for this community today with the passing of Speaker Foley,” Spokane Mayor David Condon said in prepared remarks. “Representing the heart of Spokane in Washington D.C. for 30 years, he advocated for the Spokane that he believed we could be and, in many ways, the Spokane that we are today.
“Just one of the many efforts he led was that of the University District, now a vibrant downtown anchor that boasts entrepreneurial centers and top-tier universities. I am grateful for his commitment, service and leadership over those 30 years and the lasting impression he has left on our community.”
State Rep. Marcus Riccelli
“I hope that, particularly in this time of great divisions, we can all reflect on his legacy of setting partisan differences aside to advance public policy for the greater good,” said state Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane. “All of us in public service should strive to live up to his high standards.
“My deepest condolences go out to Mrs. Foley, their family and the extended family of staff that had the pleasure to serve with him.”
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